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Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation Paperback – August 27, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

On the list of the greatest spiritual books of all time, the Bhagavad Gita resides permanently in the top echelon. This poem of patently Indian genius sprouted an immense tree of devotional, artistic, and philosophical elaboration in the subcontinent. The scene is a battlefield with the prince Arjuna pitted against his own family, but no sooner does the poem begin than the action reverts inward. Krishna, Arjuna's avatar and spiritual guide, points the way to the supreme wisdom and perfect freedom that lie within everyone's reach. Worship and be faithful, meditate and know reality--these make up the secret of life and lead eventually to the realization that the self is the root of the world. In this titular translation, Stephen Mitchell's rhythms are faultless, making music of this ancient "Song of the Blessed One." Savor his rendition, but nibble around the edges of his introduction. In a bizarre mixture of praise and condescension, Mitchell disregards two millennia of Indian commentary, seeking illumination on the text from Daoism and Zen, with the Gita coming up just shy of full spiritual merit. Perhaps we should take it from Gandhi, who used the Gita as a handbook for life, that it nourishes on many levels. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Mitchell must by now be accounted one of our generation!s heroic translators, having taken on the Book of Job, the Tao te Ching, and Genesis and done so much to popularize Rilke in English. Now he applies his considerable skill and sympathy to one of the most noted sacred texts of Asia, the Bhagavad Gita, and the results are very happy. He works in free-verse quatrains of about three beats per line, and his language flows with great naturalness. Inevitably, this text will remain both ancient and foreign to many modern readers, but Mitchell!s work goes a long way to making these words...[drive] away your ignorance and delusion. Highly recommended.
- away your ignorance and delusion. Highly recommended.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; Reprint edition (August 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609810340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609810347
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn in 1943, educated at Amherst, the Sorbonne, and Yale, and de-educated through intensive Zen practice. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, Meetings with the Archangel, Gilgamesh, The Second Book of the Tao, and the Iliad. When he is not writing, he likes to (in no particular order) think about writing, think about not writing, not think about writing, and not think about not writing. He is married to Byron Katie and cowrote two of her bestselling books: Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy. You can read extensive excerpts from all his books on his website,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

316 of 330 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on January 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really like Stephen Mitchell's work, but it's important to know what you're getting.
What you're ordinarily _not_ getting is a straight-up translation of the source text; you're getting Mitchell's attempt to render the source text into a fine English poem that expresses the spiritual insights he wants it to express. (Examples: his excellent interpretive renderings of the Psalms and the Tao Te Ching. They are excellent interpretive renderings; they are _not_ translations.)
Even when the translation _is_ straightforward, he tends to chop the text to bits and just keep the parts he agrees with. (Examples: his translation of the book of Genesis, which includes the entire text but relegates the "spiritually suspect" parts to an appendix, and his rendering of the book of Job, which includes some terrific translation but omits the speech of Elihu and the poem in praise of wisdom.)
And now he's done the Bhagavad Gita. Has he translated it, or has he interpretively rendered it?
Well, the first point to make is that he _has_ included the entire text and limited himself to offering commentary on the parts he doesn't agree with. (Incidentally, I tend to disagree with the same parts and I understand that there have been Hindu scholars who have at least raised the same questions that Mitchell does.) This point alone means that Mitchell's Gita is a landmark: he hasn't chopped up the text in order to leave out the "spiritually inferior" portions.
So how good is his translation? Well, Mitchell says his own Sanskrit is "rudimentary," but that doesn't mean (as some reviewers seem to think) that he doesn't know any at all. (This is a bit different from his Tao Te Ching, in which he admits that he just doesn't read Chinese.
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114 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First of all this is a beautiful book. The design by Barbara Sturman in which the text is presented in a handsome wine/purple font set in wide margins with the chapter titles in a contemporary font of soft vermillion suggests reverence for the Gita while hinting of a twenty-first century Western appreciation. There is a ribbon sown into the binder for keeping your place.

Second, the emphasis is on the text of the Gita itself garlanded by Mitchell's brief introduction and his "About the Translation" and a most appropriate and valuable appendix, "The Message of the Gita" by Mohandas K. Gandhi from his Collected Works.

Third, there is the translation itself, which is poetic and easily accessible to the contemporary reader without diluting the sacred essence of this great work of spirituality. Mitchell, who has had extensive experience rendering poetic and spiritual works into English, including a much-admired translation of the Tao Te Ching, worked hard at fusing "the dignity of formal verse" into a "sound like natural speech" (p. 32). Rather than go through torturous artificialities in trying to fit all of the text into metric lines, Mitchell has chosen to present some of the Gita in prose. Thus the opening chapter, which he calls "Arjuna's Despair," in which the scene is set and the participants identified, is gracefully told in prose, as is the introduction of the second chapter until Krishna speaks. The effect is beautiful, since it highlights the importance of what Krishna is about to say in a speech that really begins the poem and the teaching. (Shakespeare used this technique.)

Mitchell has solved the problem of the word "yoga," a long time bugaboo for English translators of the Gita, by sometimes using "yoga" and sometimes using "discipline.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Dean Dobbert on January 23, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am mesmerized as I read this book and find within it the common thread that joins all the great holy books of the world. It is beautifully put together and written in such a fashion that it is a pleasure read. I was concerned about another reviewer's comments about this being an "interpretation" rather than a "translation" of the Gita, and so I sat down and compared several chapters of this book to the translation by Sir Edwin Arnold is a more standard treatment of this text. I found that Stephen Mitchell's version was much more readable and understandable, and yet did not take anything away from the authenticity of the actual text. For anyone wishing to take a slightly different path leading to the nearness to God, I highly recommend picking up this book.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By a spiritual practicioner on January 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
Remarkable how Mr Mitchell liberates this book from the bondage of Indian philosophy and shows it as the mystical and universal text it needs to be. And with remarkable restraint he represents a universal poem of love to the divine without the western baggage of religiousity and pomp. So there are two qualities to enjoy in this book which put it above other translations.

In the context of 21st century publishing, Mitchell's position is almost unique in having translated and rendered a universal core of spiritual literature. The positioning this book seems pure hearted to me, as part of Mitchell's own seeking, and part of what he has to share to the world. So it is deep in that sense.

But some passages left me puzzled. I know a little bit of sanskrit, much less no doubt than this translator, but specific passages of American will not yield the same nuances of the original language no matter how you twist them, nor will the readership tolerate graceless translations of this luminous poem. It just won't fit into the words!

So the problem if any is between different readerships, the traditional and the modern especially.

The text is beautiful and deep and lovely. I read it over a large coffee in a Borders cafe, then twice at home over the next three days, so its simplicity is not to be doubted. The book really is all it promises to be: a new translation for an open minded readership wishing to gain a quick acquaintence with a deep book. And it works wonders there. Other translations have taken days to read a few chapters at a time and this is so easy to read and digest.

One gripe is that he refers to the female readership in his introduction, because of the male orientation of Krishna's advice.
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